ATHENS — Greece accused Iran of “piracy” after Iranian forces seized two Greek oil tankers in the Persian Gulf in apparent retaliation for Greece’s seizing an Iranian tanker and letting the U.S. confiscate its crude oil.
Greece’s Foreign Ministry complained to the Iranian ambassador in Athens over the “violent taking over of two Greek-flagged ships” in the Persian Gulf after Iran said it has taken the vessels. Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard said on Friday that Iranian forces “seized two Greek tankers for violations in Gulf waters,” according to a statement quoted by Iranian state news agency IRNA.
The Greek ministry called for the immediate release of the vessels and their crews, saying the “acts effectively amount to acts of piracy,” according to a statement. The ministry warned that the seizure would have “particularly negative consequences” in the bilateral relations between Greece and Iran and on Iran’s relations with the European Union.
The Cypriot Foreign Ministry also issued a strong statement on Saturday, calling for the immediate release of the crew members, among whom one is Cypriot.
The clash comes after the U.S. confiscated Iranian oil held on a Russian operated ship near Greece. The cargo has been transformed to another ship hired by the Americans and will be sent to the U.S., according to Greek officials.
The two Greek tankers were seized on Friday. According to the Greek Foreign Ministry, an Iranian helicopter landed on the Greek-flagged Delta Poseidon, while it was sailing in international waters, some 22 nautical miles off the coast of Iran. “Armed men then captured the ship’s crew, including two Greek citizens,” the ministry said.
“A similar incident was reported on another Greek-flagged ship, carrying seven Greek citizens, off the Iranian coast,” the ministry added. The second ship is Prudent Warrior, managed by the Greek company Polembros Shipping.
Nour News, a website close to Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, had warned earlier on Friday that Tehran planned to take “punitive action” over Greece assisting the U.S.
Tensions are running high between Tehran and the West. Long-running negotiations to restore the Iran nuclear deal under U.S. President Joe Biden came to a standstill last month in Vienna with the sticking point being the status of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Biden has finalized his decision to keep the IRGC on a terrorist blacklist, further complicating international efforts to restore the 2015 nuclear agreement.